Eye scanningEye scan checks at UK airports

10 March 2006

Eye scanning technology has been introduced at Britain's busiest airport terminal to allow passengers a fast track through immigration.

The Iris Recognition Immigration System (IRIS) at Heathrow Terminal One will enable UK citizens and some foreigners to skip passport checks.

Passengers can pre-register a photograph of the iris of their eye, and then have their iris scanned on arrival at automated barriers in the immigration arrivals hall.

The biometric technology works by photographing a passenger's iris patterns and storing the data in a database, together with their passport details. As no two iris patterns are the same, the system quickly recognises each registered individual when they look into the camera.

A one-off enrolment for IRIS takes about five minutes and is free. Registration is conducted by immigration staff in the departures area of the airport and you can learn more about joining at the IRIS website.

Latest technology

IRIS initially began operating at Heathrow Terminals Two and Four last June but was closed for six months following July's suicide bombings in London.

Today's launch at Terminal One sees it expand to the busiest terminal in the UK, with 21 million passengers a year.

Immigration minister Tony McNulty said: 'With over 97 million people entering the UK in 2005, it is important that the UK remains at the forefront of the latest technology in immigration controls and the Government's commitment to Project Iris demonstrates that.

'Secure and effective border controls are vital to safeguard our citizens against terrorism, serious and organised crime and illegal immigration, while at the same time facilitating entry for legitimate travellers.'

The eye scanning technology will also be installed at Gatwick North and South, Heathrow Terminal Three, Stansted, Birmingham and Manchester Terminals One and Two by the end of this year.